Tag Archives: equality

‘Against’ Homosexuality: The political battle across France


FRANCE HAS A long tradition of social movements. Strikes and demonstrations are such a common thing that French protesting generally does not bring surprise to the world. On October 7, 2014, huge demonstrations were held in Paris and Bordeaux with unconventional participants. Contra the typical ‘fight for your rights’ motivation of most protests, participants marched against guaranteed rights for homosexual couples, legislated in May 2013.

From Mariage pour tous to Manif’ pour tous

Small historical reminder: In May 2012 and in France, the socialist candidate Francois Hollande becomes the new President of the Republic. Among his promises, the legalisation of the wedding for homosexual people (it is the ‘mariage pour tous’ marriage for all) as well as the possibility for homosexual couples to adopt. One legal option was previously available for them: PACS (Civil Pact of Solidarity), a contract which creates mutual rights and obligations for couples but does not give a legal security as strong as the marriage, especially in areas concerning family and inheritance.

Christiane Taubira, Minister of Justice, is asked with preparing this bill to be discussed in The Parliament. Even if this promise was in the official program of the socialist candidate – that allowed him to be elected-, a certain part of the population does not agree with it and is getting ready to make some noise. A collective of 37 associations, mostly Christians but some also targeting the defence of child’s rights and families or political, called for massive demonstrations across France from November 2012. This movement, now named « Manif’ pour tous » (Demonstration for All) – to remind, if we need it, why they are fighting for- claims to had managed to gather around 500 000 to 1 million participants from the beginning of their actions according to the movement to shout that they do not want neither gay marriage couples neither its associated rights of adoption. Encouraging citizens to protest loudly and organizing journeys from all the French cities to join them in Paris by chartered buses or train deals.

Logo_La_Manif_pour_tous

Over the course of 2013, several large demonstrations succeeded in France, interrupted of scandals and criticism. In March 2013, Beatrice Bourges, one of the figures of the movement is excluded from Manif’ pour Tous when a part of demonstrators broke prefectural rules to protest onto Champs Elysées to face policemen. This mark the official separation of the Manif’ pour Tous with another movement called French Spring, with reference to the Arabic Spring.

It’s soon the turn of Frigide Barjot, a leading media spokeswoman for the Movement who is then pushed out following claims that she is not in line anymore with the movement’s positions- too lenient with the law that had just been promulgated. Plus, happened some homophobic skids that occurred during the demonstrations, without forgetting some violent talks of the catholic association CIVITAS – often considered as fundamentalist- which joined the demonstrations, but had finally been excluded by the collective.

Manif ‘pour Tous has also been criticized for the involment of children during the protests, not only bringing them to demonstrate but also placing them at the front of the group, looking similar as a shield against the police. Some mark the irony of an organization fighting to prevent the children’s rights by same-sex parents instrumentalizing their own in such a way.

Finally, some politics have accused the Manif’ pour Tous to legitimate homophobic speeches and acts.

And after the promulgation…

What does the law say?

The law allows same-sex couples to get married, and adopt. Marriage creates mutual obligations but also advantages and security for each married. It does not say a word about surrogacy, still forbidden in France for any couple. This law leads to equal rights for both homosexual and heterosexual couples. Since the law is passed in May 2013 and accepted by the Constitutional Council, the Manif’ pour Tous has not weakened as noticed with the recent demonstration in October 2014, with a number of participants estimated between 500 000 according to the movement and 70 000 for the Police. A victory for the participants who not only want to pressure François Hollande and his team, but also send a signal for the next political elections in France. They want to be heard. And still the same message: the French family is in danger.

On what do they based their claim? Sacrilege of the wedding, of “natural”conception and of children’s rights that would be in danger – in other words to preserve the ‘traditional family.’

They won’t give up, and they are encouraged by their successful demonstrations. This time, it’s for two things, according to the official website of the movement. First, the abrogation of the Taubira Law – which would create insecurity for the 7000 couples already married in 2013. Second, to manifest their aversion to the surrogacy of whom government has already said that the legalisation is not discussed in France, and the Assisted Reproductive Technology for homosexual couples- which is not allowed as well.

A few widespread factors explain Manif’ pour Tous’ success in France: a certain Christian heritage, conservative mind-set, a tradition of going down in the streets to protest, and a rejection of the socialist policy of Francois Hollande.If you make a detour by their website, you will notice that they do not only denounce Taubira’s law but interfere now with the politics in general- as you can see with their article against the end of the universal amount of family allowance (the government wants to reduce the amount for the richest families). Thus, It is becoming a real political movement with opinions on political French affairs and laws, trying to gain head on the moral issues of the time, based on the defence of traditional Family and conservative values.

These demonstrations have revealed a split between the French population, and a stron conservative mind still existing in the French society. This law may be a new start for future generations to not be questioned anymore about it. At the dawn of 2015, the battle for equal rights for homosexual couples in France is not over yet and Manif’ pour Tous leads as the symbol of a movement that does not accept a changing France.

Written by Pauline Sani
Image credits: wikipedia and huffington post (creative commons)

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Fighting sexual harassment in Egypt


WOMEN ARE HOUNDED everyday while walking down the street, or even at home where they suffer from harassing phone calls. Sexual harassment is one of the main problems within post revolutionary Egyptian society. Years ago this was a taboo topic, not for men –the stalkers– but for women who were ashamed of making something like that public. The silence was broken after the Arab Spring when a CBS journalist was raped during the protests in Tahrir Square.

When Mubarak got the power in 1981 nothing really changed. And it didn’t so with the elaboration of the new constitution after many demonstrations in 2011, despite the active role of women in the revolution -as in social media as in the streets-. Women were still excluded from the public sphere. However, they weren’t intimidated and kept fighting for their rights. A few weeks before the coup d’etat that toppled Mubarak and established Al-Sisi as president, women taking part in Tamarrud movement (known in the West as Rebel) were collecting signatures with the aim of requesting a referendum.

Little by little the fight against sexual harassment was getting stronger, reaching the big screen in the launch of the movie Cairo 678. Social media was also a very important platform to be heard. ‘Cocoons’ or ‘echo chambers’ were created on Facebook, as well as ‘HarassMap’ and ‘Voice of Egyptian women’. Organizations like International Amnesty and Dignity Without Borders also raised their voice; the last one launched a campaign against “sexual terrorism” where children (boys and girls) were inquired in front of the school about their opinions on sexual harassment.

These answers showed that the country of pharaohs needs a deep social change. Fortunately, a men movement created after the Arab Spring became aware of their sisters, mothers and all Egyptian women situation. Some people already talk about the ‘new Arab man’ that instead of fighting against women achievements in terms of social rights, support them. Men and women fighting shoulder to shoulder has transformed this issue into a real and shared problem by the whole Egyptian society.

Another example of it is the role of social and mass media to spread the image of what many people call “sexual terrorism”. The last public case of sexual harassment took place once again in Tahrir Square during the celebration of Al-Sisi’s victory for the presidential elections. A witness filmed with his phone the sexual aggression of a woman by a group of men. The video went viral, first in social media and later for the rest of the world.

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/webtv/reports/2014/06/10/Seven-arrested-after-Egypt-sex-assault-video.html

 

A few days later, the elected president visited the victim of the brutal sexual assault at the hospital and this event was publicly condemned for the very first time in the history of Egypt. He gave flowers to the woman and his apologies: “We are sorry, we are not God. I am apologizing to every Egyptian woman (…) Our own flesh is being assaulted on the streets and that is unacceptable”, reported on Egyptian Streets

Afterwards, seven men were arrested. Overall, this is not just a case apparently condemned by society: this is an offense, punishable nowadays by law.

 

Words by Andreyna Valera.
Edited and translated by Ana Escaso.
Feature Image: rouelshimi.

Gender fluidity is the new black

Jens Dresling
BY WINNING THIS year’s Eurovision Song Contest Conchita Wurst did not only put gender at the top of the agenda. The triumph of the 25-year-old Austrian drag act makes way for a – for some – new concept; gender fluidity.

Social anthropologists along with sociologists and other scholars doing research on gender have for years argued that gender should be perceived as a spectrum rather than a static category.

According to the Executive Director of Gender Spectrum, Stephanie Hill, it is necessary to distinguish between sex and gender. While sex is biological and includes physical attributions, gender is the complex interrelationship between one’s physical traits and one’s internal sense of self as male, female, both or neither as well as one’s outward presentations and behavior related to that perception. In short, gender is a social spectrum and thus way more complicated than the category of the biological sex.

Wurst’s real name is Tom Neuwirth. When Tom puts on eyelashes and wick he becomes his female persona and is referred to as “she”. In other words, Wurst is a clue to what gender fluidity might look like in practice.

While Putin and his administration continue to express homophobic views and put forward anti-gay policies, it seems like Europe is moving in a more liberal direction, making way for a broader understanding of gender and identity. 

Collecting the trophy on stage Wurst said: “This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are — we are unity and we are unstoppable.”

After her victory Wurst told reporters that she felt Europe had taken a stand by voting her the winner. No doubt her triumph shows progress in liberal attitudes among Europeans. Wurst added that she hopes gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people around the world are getting stronger in their fight for human rights.

While Putin and his administration continue to express homophobic views and put forward anti-gay policies, it seems like Europe is moving in a more liberal direction, making way for a broader understanding of gender and identity.

Now, let us celebrate the triumph of Wurst. A triumph of tolerance.

 

By Sofie Ejdrup Larsen
Photo Credit Jens Dresling

Equality or discrimination?

Flickr: HBarrison

The University of Copenhagen wants to attract more female applicants to research positions. A gender action plan has been set in motion, and is to be implemented by the end of 2014. Tinuke Maria Iyore investigates what Danish student media are writing about the plan.  

COPENHAGEN UNIVERSITY HAS presented a new action plan for gender balance. One of the proposals is that both genders have to be represented in the applicants for research positions.

The proposal has received a lot of attention in Danish media and was recently up for debate at a Copenhagen University board meeting, where several board members expressed their concern about this requirement. Certain members of the Danish Parliament have even called the proposal discriminating.

However a close look at the pile of applications shows that the university might be facing an even bigger problem. The pile is simply too small.

Gender vs. Qualifications

According to the rector of Copenhagen University’s Ralf Hemmingsen, the proposal is not gender-discriminating. “We’re testing the proposal, because we find that there are too few female professors. I don’t think it is discriminating to make sure that we have at least one female and one male applicant.

“I would like to emphasize that qualifications remain the determining factor,” he says to the Danish newspaper Berlingske.

At the most recent board meeting, members agreed that the main goal of the action plan should be to attract more qualified applicants. Some board members believed emphasis should be put solely on qualifications, while others thought that the main focus should be attracting more qualified female applicants, due to the notion that this minority within academia holds a great deal of talent.

Danish Equality Laws

The minister for gender equality, Manu Sareen of the Social Liberal Party, welcomes the proposal. “I think it is important that the universities work towards a more equal gender composition. It’s about making the most of all talents”, he says to Berlingske.

He also states that it is equally important that the university stays within the Danish equality laws. The University of Copenhagen has previously obtained a waiver from this law with their 2008 action plan; ‘Diversity – more women in management’.

Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl, who is Research Spokesman for the Danish People’s Party, is sceptical of the proposal. He calls it  “very discriminating” and thinks it diverts attention from simply hiring the most qualified applicant.

The Bigger Problem

The lack of applicants seems to be a problem that goes beyond gender. The board of Copenhagen University is concerned that every third research position receives only one application – thus granting no certainty that the most qualified researcher is actually the one who gets the job.

This might actually pose a larger problem than the lack of female applicants. “The universities should concentrate on attracting highly skilled employees. Not by making special proposals for women, but by creating a more attractive work environment, so more qualified applicants – both men and women – apply for the university’s research positions,” says Merete Riisager, spokeswoman on gender equality for the Liberal Alliance party, to Berlingske.

– – –

Do you think the University of Copenhagen is engaging in positive discrimination?  Is this an appropriate response to uneven employment figures?  Where should the university’s priorities lie regarding top reseach jobs?  Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Photo credit: HBarrison [Flickr]

Based on the following articles from Universitetsavisen:

 

http://universitetsavisen.dk/politik/rektor-ingen-diskrimination-her

 

http://universitetsavisen.dk/politik/konsdebat-i-bestyrelsen-kun-en-ansoger-til-hver-tredje-forskerstilling-er-kaempe-problem

Congo, Crime and Discrimination: Norwegian Fast News

The Olympic Comittee

The Olympic Comittee

Ingunn Dorholt gives a brief overview of last week’s dominating news.

Last week Norwegian media were anticipating the second sentence of the British/Norwegian ex- soldier Joshua French, who has been imprisoned in the Democratic Republic of Congo for almost five years. The final sentence has been postponed several times, most recently due to a report about his current mental health.

The case started in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009, when the two Norwegians, Joshua French and Tjostolv Moland, were convicted for a number of charges, including the murder of their private driver, keeping weapons illegally, performing armed robbery and for attempting to start a private criminal association. The two Norwegians were sentenced to capital punishment on three court levels, however The Congo no longer performs actual executions. Neither of the men has admitted to committing the murder. Instead they claim that their car was attacked by a local group, who killed the driver.

The Norwegian foreign department sent an enquiry to Congolese authorities to have the two Norwegians  sent back home, but so far nothing has happened.

On 18 August 2013, Tjostolv Moland was found dead in his cell. Joshua French is now awaiting the sentence for the murder of his friend, as Congolese governments claim that he drugged Moland, and strangled him to death. The Norwegian police department Kripos, went to Congo to investigate the case, but did not find any reason to believe there was anything criminal behind the death. There were no traces of drugs in Moland’s blood.

Moland and French were running a private security company in Uganda. Their original plans in Congo are disputed, but anonymous sources within the military claim they were recruiting other soldiers to private armed missions around Africa.

Norwegian arrogance

Norwegian media are of course also busy following the Olympic Games in Sochi. Norway received two warnings from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the first weekend of the winter games, and the Norwegian representative in IOC, Gerhard Heiberg, has warned Norwegian contestants about their behaviour. He claims that “Norway is already known for being arrogant, and this is not exactly helping the image”. The first warning came after bronze-medal winner, Martin Johnsrud, decided to change skiing tracks just before the finish line. The other one was because the women’s skiing team were wearing black armbands as a symbol of grief, after one of the Norwegian skiers lost her brother on the night of the opening ceremony in Sochi. According to the IOC, the “Olympic competition is not an arena to show grief”.

Norwegian representative in IOC, Gerhard Heiberg.

Norwegian representative in IOC, Gerhard Heiberg

Inequality in insurances

Pandeia’s theme this week is Inequality, and equality has been a much debated topic in Norwegian media lately. It has been revealed that disability insurances are twice as expensive for women as for men. While Norwegian equality laws prohibit differentiating the genders in relation to car insurances, there is so far no law that prevents the insurance companies from making the distinction on other insurances. In 2011 the EU established a law that made such discrimination illegal. However Norway is not a part of the EU, and can choose whether or not to implement the law.

 

Photos: Martin Hafsahl and Sjur Stølen

Does Greece need a revolution?

As 2013 drew to a close, and the protest movement across Europe took stock of its accomplishments, demonstrators in Greece turned their attention to the recent heavy handed nature of the country’s policing. As Chloe Thanopoulou investigates, the events of the 6th of December could irrecoverably change the nation’s future. 

The 6th of December has a special meaning for Greeks. It marks the death of Pavlos Sidiropoulos: the Prince of Greek Rock as well as being the day Alexis Grigoropoulos – the 15-year old boy who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time – was murdered by a police-officer.

It is also the day a revolution started – one that marks the country’s consciousness. In a certain way, the events are interconnected. Although Pavlos lived in a entirely different time, the circumstances were in many ways similar to those today. Through his songs, he reprobated the corrupt state and the philistines and showed the anger of the people towards the system. Alexis was another victim of the power of the authorities. He, as well as many others, have been victims of the political situation often talked about in Pavlos’ songs.

Protesters or Terrorists?

A social “explosion” of dissatisfaction and unrest followed Alexis’ death. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back; a full-scale collision with authoritarianism. Yet this was not reflected in the media, whose reaction to the protests – and the protesters – was largely a negative one. Activists were often characterised as terrorists; meaninglessly trying to burn cities down. This viewpoint quickly became widespread, distorting the image most people had about what was going on. Though the chance for change had been born, many people preferred long discussions at the local café’s – based on misleading information provided by the big news agencies – over the action a revolution requires. It kept many people away from demonstrations.

Demonstrations

Demonstrating is even less appealing when police reactions are taken into account. In an attempt to appear effective demonstrators are arrested so the police are able to announce the numbers of arrests the next day. It is considered a way of proving its capabilities, but in reality denies citizens the right to demonstrate peacefully.

An example of the attitude shown by police towards the politically active is an event that took place last year year when a local Greek group Laiki SynelefsI Papagou-Holargou (the people’s assembly of Papagou-Holargos) saw a series of arrests made against their members. For no apparent reason, two of their members were firstly accused of theft and  – when these charges could no longer be justified – the charge of arson of two ATM’s appeared. In a statement released by the group, they describe: “The autocratic behavior of the state and the “terrorism” against everybody who is fighting is obvious”.

Arresting people without a clear reason – especially in demonstrations – is a common tactic of the police: highlighting their unwillingness to find the real wrongdoers. Not only have politically and socially active people become a target of the authorities while facing continuous mistreatment, but they also appear to be the scapegoats of everything the police cannot cope with. The need to show the public that justice is being served by targeting people who fight and have strong political views, serves the need to control potential reactions which could lead to a revolution . So far, this tactic seems to be successful: the consequences of demonstrating seem severe, which in turn deters people from standing up for their rights.

Yet, the yearly demonstrations in the memory of Alexis  have had some impact. This is primarily because people believe that, 5 years on from the murder, ‘nothing has changed’. A revolution does not play by the rules and cannot calculate the costs. It may come only when there is no other choice – it knocks existing structures down to subsequently rebuild them. Yet, this does not have to be led by violence. It must start by changing minds, by changing perceptions of what is ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ and what is not. It may happen when someone sees his or her fathers’ store closing or his or her uncles’ house being taken away because of an unpaid debt. It could happen if allegations that as many as half of the police force vote for the far-right party Golden Dawn turn out to be true. Or it could be when someone’s desperate neighbour commits suicide, as occurred at the beginning of the Arab Spring. It may happen in the heads of the many people that work continuously for 300 euro a month, with no hope for a better future. We cannot forget the symbols of Pavlos and Alexis, because they have foreseen what the country is going through now. Silence, distortion and fear are not the way to change it.

Original article by Costas Papantoniou

 

Gender in the land of the Pharaohs

Having been ranked as the worst country for women’s rights in the Arab world, Egyptian women are certainly not having the time of their lives, especially in the post-revolution period. Shorouk El Hariry showcases a few illustrations and photographs from Egypt that actively capture the status quo.

Egypt is a country where a girl on a bicycle is considered inappropriate and unladylike, where getting catcalled is the nicest thing an Abaya-wearing female can hear on Cairo’s streets, where it’s more common to hear of mob-raping in Tahrir Square than of the cabinet’s plans to rebuild the nation.

A chant for justice

Women Holding Flags

 

The revolution was built upon the shoulders of its women. If we follow the trail of mass protests, from January 25th, 2011, to June 30th, 2013, the female scream for justice was the loudest. Yet sadly, the scream for justice transformed into shrieks for help that go unheard on a daily basis.

 

With the groping hands of men, there is zero safety

Esraa Mohamed

 

Esraa Mohamed, the average Egyptian young Cairene, was sexually harassed in broad daylight. Her derrière was chemically burnt by an unidentified corrosive substance, disfiguring her body. And what is being done about it? So little; not to undermine the efforts of the strong women behind these initiatives, but to say that the society is rather irresponsive.

 

HarassMap: Creating an Egypt free of harassment?

harassmap logoRebecca Chiao has lived in Egypt for around ten years. What she witnessed everyday in Cairo’s streets was that women were being increasingly annoyed, whether by catcalls, comments, facial expressions, indecent exposure of male genitals, comments, ogling, harassing phone calls, sexual invites, touching, stalking or following, all the way to being raped, amounting to 98% of Egyptian women admitting to have been harassed by any of the forms above. Using the Ushahidi mapping technology, Chiao cofounded HarassMap.org, a tool for anyone who has been harassed or assaulted and for witnesses to harassment and assault all over Egypt to anonymously share and report their experiences.

 

Being forced to take virginity tests is okay, but a willingly nude woman isn’t 

Aliaa El Mahdy

 

Samira Ibrahim: 35 years old. She was forcefully stripped off of her clothing and was tested for her virginity before police and military officers. Refusing to not stand up for her dignity, she filed a lawsuit in Egyptian criminal courts. No media attention, no public support, and absolute silence.

Aliaa El Mahdy: 21 years old. She willingly modeled, naked, and posted it on her personal blog. Her nudity gathered public attention like mosquitoes over blood, with over 3 million views on her blog post, around fifty news articles and numerous television talk shows with her as the topic.

The situation speaks for itself.

And what’s even worse…

 

Women circulating ads that reinforce sexual harassment

lollipop ad

 

The scariest and most complex side of this is justification. A large percent of Egyptian women themselves justify sexual violence against their own gender, blaming it on the girls’ attires, rather than the sick attitudes of psychologically-challenged men who give their hands the rights to touch what is not theirs. With lollipops being the girls, the flies being the men, these women find that covering up a lot more is the answer.

The truth is nothing like that. I personally recall hearing a teenager stalking a woman in a burka down the street, audibly saying “I wish to see what’s beneath that”.

Egyptian women are locked beneath the ruins of a patriarchal society, one that neither defends them nor lets them be. Perhaps there is a lot to be fixed about the Egyptian society, before the revolutionaries actually start reaping benefits.

(Images Courtesy of Ahmed Hayman, Las Vegas Guardian Express, Wikimedia Commons and HarassMap.org)